The Saucon Valley's Connection to the Civil War
In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, it is fitting to recall the sacrifices made by members of the 153rd Regiment's Company C, which consisted of soldiers from Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township.
Since this year of 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, I considered it befitting to record several recollections of Northampton County volunteers who were members of the 153rd Regiment, of which Company C consisted of soldiers from Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township and adjoining communities. Also, there are recorded examples of several other companies from nearby areas to follow.
One such soldier was Rev. George W. Roth, of Company C. He had left his trade of carriage smithing in Coopersburg to answer the call of President Lincoln. One incident at Gettysburg was typical of the mayhem of battle. Brigadier General von Gilsa, well liked by the common soldier, was riding horseback past Company C when bullets began whistling by his head. He exclaimed that he wondered if the gunfire was coming from Rebel or Union soldiers, whereupon Comrade Aaron spied a Rebel sharpshooter in a nearby tree and brought down the foe with an excellent shot. For his quick action, Aaron was immediately rewarded by Von Gilsa with a greenback out of gratitude.
At the battle of Chancellorsville, Roth had been on the picket line when the rebels attacked through the woods "yelling like fiends," forcing a temporary retreat of Company C. The distinctive Rebel Yell was demonstrated by Civil War re-enactor and Saucon Valley resident Rick Eisenhart at a special presentation made to the Lower Saucon Township Historical Society in March. It certainly would have gotten one's attention.
After the skirmish, the troop had run out of hard-tack, the only food that had been issued to the regulars. They were forced to gather grains of corn left by the mules in their feeding troughs. The next day, the Company's fifer, George Lee, discovered an unguarded quarter of beef destined for the officers. He covered it with blankets and leaves and carried it to camp. The men cooked the beef beneath the hard-tack undercover. Roth commented that, "Never was meat as good as that." Incidentally, George Lee, musician, had been mustered in on Oct. 8, 1862, along with most of his comrades in Easton and was fortunate to survive the battle of Chancellorsville and the later battle of Gettysburg. It is recorded that he died at Iron Hill, South Bethlehem, long after the War Between the States.
Roth describes another comrade who had been beset with a cruel case of homesickness so badly that he refused any food and was "reduced to a skeleton." His mind had become so unbalanced that he was discharged and sent home.
Roth himself caught typhoid fever before the march to Gettysburg and was shipped to Columbia College Hospital in Washington, D.C. How he heard about the Von Gilsa incident at Gettysburg is anybody's guess. After the war many stories or anecdotes were exchanged by survivors. Roth took up his trade of carriage smithing in Bethlehem. Later, while preparing for gospel ministry, he noticed that the typhoid had affected his memory; nevertheless, he persevered and became a pastor. By 1876 Rev. Roth had served in the ministry at three congregations in the Boyertown area.
The previous and following narratives were recorded in Rev. W.R. Kiefer, Historian's book, "History of the One Hundred and Fifty-Third Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers Infantry," published in Easton, Pa. by Chemical Publishing Co. in 1909.
During my research, another of my distant relatives on the maternal side of the family has surfaced. He is the later-to-be-famous, Lieutenant William Beidelman of Company F, mustered in on Oct. 10, 1862, from Williams Township and mustered out July 24, 1863.
Beidelman was born in Lower Saucon Township Jan. 17, 1840, the son of Daniel Beidelman, a County Commissioner of Northampton County. Soon after the birth of William Beidelman in 1840 the family moved to Williams Township.
Lieutenant Beidelman, after attending Williams Township schools, attended New York Conference Seminary and Troy University. He then became a law student in the office of Edward J. Fox, Esq., in Easton. In May of 1862 he graduated from the Law Department of the University of Albany. Next, he was admitted to the bar of Northampton County. In September of the same year he enlisted in the Union Army as a member of Company F, 153rd Regiment Pa. Volunteers.
After taking part in the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, Beidelman was mustered out. In October 1871, he was elected District Attorney of Northampton County, and in November 1878 he was elected to the State Senate and served for four years. In 1890 he became Mayor of Easton and served until 1894.
I had to write about Beidelman because he wrote the book, "The Story of the Pennsylvania Germans," which is a book that I have read and used as a source for "Saucon Secrets, Volumes 1 and 2." For research, he took many trips to Germany. He died Feb. 1, 1903, at a time when he had been working on his next book about the Germans who had emigrated from the Palatinate District of Germany, where the bulk of his research remains.
William H. Beaver of Company D from East Allen Township was mustered in October of 1862 at the age of 21. C.V. Strickland was also a member of Company D. Curtis Strickland at the time was 14 years of age and became a musician. He was wounded at Chancellorsville, Virginia, on May 2, 1863, held as prisoner for 13 days, and then paroled. He later wrote the poem "Garland Their Graves No. 5," dedicated to his cohorts like William Beaver, who was struck in the heart with a minieball during the July 1, 1863 Gettysburg battle. He is buried in the Gettysburg National Cemetery, Section C, Grave 80. My cousin, Joe Werst, private in Company C, was mustered in Oct. 8, 1862, was shot by a sniper in the head on July 2, 1863, and lies buried in Section D, Grave 73.
The following verses form a portion of Curtis Strickland's poem "Garland Their Graves No. 5," in memory of William Beaver and the rest who died at Gettysburg.
"Take Thy Rest"
Sleep on, dear comrade, and now take thy rest;
The grave where thy liest is hallowed and blest.
In the heart of battle, when fiercely it raged,
Thy sword was unsheathed where the flag proudly waved.
The spot where thou liest in old Gettysburg
Shall ne'er be forgotten, while ages may surge.
We sing of thy manhood; a soldier so true,
Thy name's on the record with those of the blue.
And so, it is altogether fitting this year to commemorate those who died during the Civil War by ceremony and re-enactment. Locally, we celebrate the memory of Company C and all the rest of the Blue and the Gray.